Field of Science

Ants in your pants

Gardening and field biology have some common ground; both make you get outside and interact with nature.  So TPP was replacing a rather sad juniper with a more shade tolerant shrub, and like most of our gardening, one thing has to be removed to make room for planting.  Now this was not a large or well-off juniper so you don't expect much resistance, but from the very first shovel thrust a great protest erupts.  This particular colony of ants was quite irate about the removal of their shrub or at the very least the overall disturbance generated in the process.  What fun when they rush right up the shovel handle.  Fortunately while this ant swarms aggressively, it doesn't sting very much, and in case you didn't know, one of the worst insect stings in the world belongs to the bullet ant of Central America.  Phase one complete, TPP went to harvest some compost for phase 2 the planting of a new shrub.  Digging into the bottom of one of our composers and filling a bucket with nice rich organic material, TPP began to notice a series of stinging sensations.  It was an extremely irate colony of ants registering their annoyance with my disturbance of their nest in the compost bin.  This was a much smaller species of ant but with a rather nasty little sting, and worse they were everywhere, yes everywhere!  As a tropical biologist TPP has dealt with ants, red ones, black ones, green ones, army ones, all kinds and in all sizes, so even little bitty ones can get your attention when they attack in large numbers. To add to the fun, several hundred were transported to the planting site so that they could continue to harass the gardener.  Fortunately our climate is too cold for any really nasty ants, but these were quite annoying, and you know, there are times when you just don't want that much interaction with nature.  Anyone want to trade an anteater for some bunnies? 

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